Darebin Creek Seasonal Nature Calendar

The Woi-wurrung Traditional Owners recognise six seasons on Country including the Darebin Creek. Unlike the northern hemisphere experience, there is no true Autumn on their Country. This is apparent in the lack of native deciduous trees.

High Summer and Late Summer

Days are longer, hotter and drier. Creek flow reduces to a trickle and the water is usually quite clear. This is a good time to spot eels and fish in the water. Lizards and snakes are active, particularly near the creek where there is more food available. There is an increased potential for water eutrophication (algal blooms) due to human inputs, high temperatures and low flow.

High Summer

November, December and January
  • Birds feeding their young
  • Grasslands grow tall and set seed.
  • Young fish come up from the estuaries.

Late Summer

February to mid March.

  • Hot, humid thunderstorms
  • Grasslands dry out
  • High fire danger
  • Young platypuses emerge.
Female Eastern Long-Neck Turtles (Chelodina longicollis) dig holes in sand or soft sediments along stream banks and lay about ten eggs. Turtle’s eggs occasionally provide a meal for Rakali (water-rats) and lizards.

Common Galaxias (Galaxias maculatus) move down to estuaries to spawn in autumn. In summer the larvae leave the estuary and spend five to six months at sea as juveniles before returning to freshwater. Adults grow up to 18 cm in length.

Blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) flower from winter to spring and seed pods mature by late summer. The fine hard wood of this wattle made strong spear-throwers, boomerangs, clubs and shields in parts of Victoria.

Dragonflies are active in summer. One of the most striking dragonfly behaviors is mating in the ‘wheel’ position. Some dragonflies will mate in flight, while others choose a nearby perch. Damselflies mate in a similar way.
Eastern Brown Snakes (Pseudonaja textilis) become active and may hunt during the day and evening. Snakes can be highly aggressive if provoked. Diet includes rodents, frogs, small birds, eggs and other snakes. Females produce a clutch of 10-40 eggs in late spring/early summer.
Water ribbons (Triglochin procerum) have small green flowers above the water and long ribbon-like leaves. Tubers were an important food source for Aboriginal people along Darebin Creek. Water ribbons provide excellent habitat for fish and other aquatic organisms

Early Winter and Deep Winter

In the coldest time of the year, plant growth slows down but does not stop. For our native plants, especially the small tuberous herbs, winter is a season of growth. All sorts of fungi appear with the cool, still and misty conditions, while the ground is still warm. Although the days are short and the nights are long, birds are busy collecting nesting material in anticipation of spring. Animals such as echidnas, brush-tail and ringtail possums are mating. Many different moths emerge, and are food for birds during the day and for sugar and feathertail gliders at night.

Early Winter

April and May

  • Birds feeding their young
  • Grasslands grow tall and set seed.
  • Young fish come up from the estuaries.

Deep Winter

June to mid July

  • Hot, humid thunderstorms
  • Grasslands dry out
  • High fire danger
  • Young platypuses emerge.

Swift moths are endemic to Australia, spend most of their lives underground feeding on eucalyptus roots. Adults live only a few days, during which females fly around spraying 10,000 eggs into the leaf litter. Females have a wingspan of about 16cm – similar to a small bird.

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is Australia’s floral emblem. Numerous bright yellow flowers emerge in July and flower through to August. This provides an important food source for insects and birds through the winter months and into spring.

Sugar glider (Petaurus breviceps) breeding occurs during winter and spring, with two young being the normal litter size. They’re also capable of becoming torpid during the cold – their body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure drop for a few days at a time while the animal is in a state similar to hibernation.

Powerful Owls  (Ninox strenua) call softly to each other throughout June and July as the female starts to roost in the nest. They mate for life, over thirty years in some cases. Powerful Owls need old growth trees to nest.

Bell Miners Bell Miners (Manorina melanophrys) start breeding in June. Its call is a sweet, musical, bell-like ‘tink’. The Bell Miner is adversely affected by the loss of dense shrubby vegetation along creeks. They can live in complex colonies of up to 200 birds.

Fungi pop out of the leaf litter. Fungi are a vital part of the ecosystem. They decompose dead plant material and return nutrients to the soil.

Early Spring and True Spring

Spring brings new life to the Darebin Creek as the days get warmer and longer. Baby birds are born, frogs are calling for a mate and flowers bloom on many grasses, trees and shrubs. Fish and frogs are spawning and snakes become more active as they wake from their winter slumber.

Early Spring

Mid July, August

  • Wattles start to bloom
  • Birds are laying eggs

True Spring

September, October

  • Flowers bloom
  • Hop Goodenia
  • Wattles
  • Kangaroo Apples
  • Lilies and Orchids
  • Tadpoles appear in wetlands

Breeding peaks in early spring for the Ewing’s Tree Frog (Litoria ewingii). Frogs can be heard calling “Cree cree cree cree cree”.

Yabbies are breeding along Darebin Creek. Yabbies make their burrows in the creek bank. Yabbies are scavengers feeding on rotting plant and animal matter. They are an important food source for water birds and Rakali.

Rakali (Water Rat) Hydromys chrysogaster babies are born in spring. Litters of baby Rakali are born in burrows in the creek bank. Rakali mainly eat aquatic prey including fish, frogs, turtles, yabbies and mussels. You can distinguish the Rakali from other species by their webbed feet and white tipped tail.

Eastern Rosellas (Platycercus eximius) can be seen around trees with hollows or nesting boxes in spring. Rosellas are most often seen on the ground as they feed on grass seeds. They also feed on buds, flowers and fruit.

All sorts of water birds are breeding along the creek and wetlands of Darebin Creek, including Purple Swamphen, ducks and grebes. Birds can be seen sitting on eggs and feeding young in nest and on the water.

Lilies flower along the creek in spring. Pale Flax Lily Dianella longifolia has a pale purple flower on long stems. The lilies grow in clumps as an understory plant in the grassy woodland community. Lilies provide good habitat for frogs and reptiles. Berries are also produced that provide food for birds.

Late Summer and Early Winter

Unlike the northern hemisphere experience, there is no true Autumn on Wurundjeri Country. This is apparent in the lack of native deciduous trees. Days are becoming cooler and shorter as autumn arrives. Wedge-tailed eagles build their nests and brush and ring tail-possums mate. Many native plants such as the Common Reed, Sheoaks and Manna Gum are flowering, providing a food source to birds and insects. The Darebin Creek now has deeper water after the rains encouraging the number of waterbugs. Autumn fits into late summer and early winter in the six season calander.

Late Summer

Early February to early April
  • March has been called the eel season, because the female Short-finned Eels were moving down the streams to the sea.

Early Winter

April and May

  • All sorts of fungi appear with the rains, while the ground is still warm.
  • Many different moths emerge, and are food for birds during the day and for Sugar and Feathertail gliders at night.
Common and well adapted to urban areas, the Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) mates in autumn. During this time it makes piercing screeches to establish territories and warn of danger. Possums are nocturnal, feeding on leaves, fruits and flowers. Its smaller relative the Ringtail Possum also breeds in autumn.

Short-finned Eels (Anguilla australis) occur in Darebin Creek and its associated wetlands. They can move over land to reach new water sources. In autumn the mature females are moving out to sea to breeding grounds in the Coral Sea. Young eels return to the Darebin Creek over several years.

The Wedge-tailed eagle or Bunjil (Aquila audax) is a magnificent bird of prey with a wingspan up to 2.3 metres. In autumn they will build their nests in large trees that are easily seen because of their size. Eagles are most often seen soaring over the upper Darebin Creek in search of food.

Drooping Sheoak (Allocasuarina verticillata) is a small to medium tree that produces golden flowers in autumn. It is a good food source for birds such as Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo as it produces prolific cones with seed.

In autumn Backswimmers are busy breeding. Females dive to the bottom of the water body and attach their eggs to woody debris, stems of plants or within the mud, water interface. Incubation time is less than a couple of weeks. They can fly short distances from one body of water to the next.

While Common Reed (Phragmites australis) is sometimes mistaken for bamboo with its slender form, it is a native species. It prefers boggy, moist soil. Its large fluffy flower heads can be seen in autumn. It provides excellent frog and bird habitat. Aborigines used the leaves for fibres.